NEW RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE
Friday, November 6, 1970
Capitol Theatre – Port Chester, NY
11/06/70 is one of those “no soundboard” tapes that all Deadheads have always placed in the Holy Grail category. We pine for the master soundboard reel to come on the scene (if it even exists at all). Considering the miraculous soundboards that have appeared out of the past in recent years, anything is possible. But far beyond the issue of the missing board, this show ranks as one of the best Dead performances of all time.
11/06/70 is another of the infamous “usher tapes.” Ken Leigh worked at the Capitol Theater, and was able to set up to record at the balcony rail. Like 06/24/70 and 11/08/70, this tape is pretty sublime, all 1970 caveats considered. The room ambience is quickly absorbed into your ear’s psyche, and before long you are feeling very much perched on the lip of the balcony, taking everything in.
From this date we have not only the entire show, but the soundcheck as well (a unique window into the pre-show Dead playing to an empty house in 1970). The acoustic set proper is steeped in that warm, relaxed, and inviting atmosphere so prevalent from this era. Here, by the end of 1970, the acoustic sets are somehow even more hypnotic than they were in the Spring. The audience is so receptive to the music, and it is clear that no one is in any hurry at all. Understandable, as this was the third time in 1970 that the band brought its circus to this venue. No one in the audience is worried by this point that their beloved psychedelic monster has been swapped out with some lazy, front porch sitting, good ol’ boys with acoustic guitars. Everyone is in it for the long, sweet ride.
Highlights from the acoustic set show up on nearly every song.
Don't Ease Me In, Deep Elem Blues, Dark Hollow, Friend Of The Devil, The Rub, Black Peter, El Paso, Brokedown Palace, Uncle John’s Band
For me, the slow rolling Black Peter is extremely satisfying. Garcia has us all sitting on his lap in rapt silence as he tells his tale. By the end of the set, with its lovely Uncle John’s Band closer, we are fully inducted into the relaxed personal space of the Dead’s musical universe.
From here, the air of intimacy, with its folksy, country vibe, is electrified by the New Riders Of The Purple Sage. The Riders music comes on, much like the undoubtedly electrified crowd, pulsing and throbbing under the twanging bounce of David Nelson’s finger picking, and Garcia’s siren-like hypnotic pedal steel playing; his notes sticking together like a liquid gossamer cotton candy of country-infused psychedelia. John “Marmaduke” Dawson’s vocal delivery on covers and his own compositions lends its own slightly twisted bent to everything as well.
The Riders wore psychedelic music like a subtle cologne or bandana under a hat. You wouldn’t know it was there upon first glance, but after a few passing songs, you would eventually see that all these multi-hued undertones were there the whole time. Syncopated, snaking downbeats, interweaving guitar licks and harmonies, and a pedal steel that seems to smile with a strobe light rainbow playful sort of knowing, all remain veiled within the trappings of some good old country rock music. The Riders packed a deep psychedelia into the cracks and crevices of their music, allowing it to permeate everything, occasionally casting it out into full view, and always using it to reach miles into the listener’s heart and soul.
Their set list on this evening is masterful:
Workin' Man Blues, I Don't Know You, Whatcha Gonna Do, Glendale Train, Portland Woman, Fair Chance to Know, All I Ever Wanted, Truck Drivin' Man, Lodi, Me and Bobby McGee, Louisiana Lady, The Weight, Honky Tonk Woman
They deliver everything beautifully, and Jerry’s steel playing is gorgeous throughout. You can easily get lost in Portland Woman, All I Even Wanted, and The Weight. And the infectious Whatcha Gonna Do, Lodi, and Louisiana Lady are each stellar.
Then comes the electric Dead set. It’s as if some enormous octopus of boiling energy has invaded the theater. The band opens with Casey Jones, and the crowd comes instantly alive; the Dead strutting along with gusto.
Casey Jones, Me & My Uncle, King Bee, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Truckin’, Candyman, Sugar Magnolia
One of my favorite passages of this front portion of the electric set is the China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider. This song pairing rides the borderline between the Psychedelic beast and the Americana/Folklore energy beautifully. China Cat, with its carnival wheel turning spokes flashing colored lights and bubbles, twists and turns its way through the air. All of the instruments sound wonderful. Bobby’s guitar flashes, Phil’s bass rumbles, and Garcia is riding his white hot beam of thick jeweled tone, so typical of 1970. The interweaving patterns slowly work their way into more formal paths as they angle into I Know You Rider, and the music lifts itself on the back of Jerry’s solo into one joyous passage after another. We can feel the audience lock into the energy, and that unmistakable urge to smile washes over us as Jerry rides the beam again. By the end of Rider, the spell is fully cast. The lines between the crowd and audience are blurred. The entire family steps up and marches directly into Truckin’. And a little while later into the set, things just keep getting better.
The show closes out with a titanic portion of brilliant Grateful Dead music:
Good Lovin’ > Drums > The Main Ten > Drums > Good Lovin’, Alligator > Drums > NFA > GDTRFB > Mountain Jam > NFA > Caution > Lovelight
Good Lovin’ finds the band’s true leader, Pigpen, stepping into the spotlight. They quickly kick their way through the tight, infectious cover and head into a drum solo. The thunderous rhythms cool way down and things simmer into The Main Ten. The beautiful roots of Playin’ In The Band’s theme stretch back a ways before the actual song was ever introduced into the rotation. Called The Main Ten, based in no small part, I’m sure, on its ten beat measure, this wonderful little theme gets explored in 1970 from time to time, and here it works like a drug seeping into our bloodstream. It takes us down an unexpected path of blissful, haunting grace. While it never quite blossoms into a full on improvisational jam, the Dead work the theme as a potter might sculpt clay on a wheel. Gentle caresses embrace the theme, slowly forming it into a more and more structured thing of beauty. It is short lived here on 11/06/70, but hypnotic all the same. As mysteriously as it appeared, it is gone, back into Drums on the way back to Good Lovin’. The end portion of Good Lovin’ is full of that sweaty, sultry confidence that the Dead wore so well in 1970. The jam crackles along as Garcia reaches for the sun and explodes in a shower of electricity and raw power.
Alligator sets the band down the long home stretch of this show. It flares with a swampy, dark, voodoo heat. The jam following the formal song section calls to hidden shadowed magic. It winds its way down long liquid rivers which eventually form into beautiful and gentle melodies, the entire electric beast showing that it can hold a delicate flower without completely consuming it in fire. But the fire is there, nonetheless, and that smoky, sultry voodoo dance slips directly into Not Fade Away, with the band igniting again.
Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad > Not Fade Away is still a very new thing for the Dead at this stage of 1970. But just as we could feel the absolute perfection of the pairing back on 10/23/70, here it is even more fully locked into an archetypical example of the Grateful Dead’s own personal sound. Goin’ Down The Road keys right back into that Americana/Folklore we found earlier in I Know You Rider. And it is this wonderful juxtaposition of elements – folk against voodoo fire – that reflect the entire evening’s performance, and in fact, the entire nature of the band by the end of 1970. The multi-facetted jewel is ever turning in on itself. When Goin’ Down The Road slides into a Mountain Jam (built off of Donovan’s “There Is A Mountain”), the music takes on a certain level of spiritual beauty as it flows forward. It careens into a near shower of complete Feedback, as if the band knows that Caution is coming, but then remembers that they planned to wrap back into Not Fade Away. It’s a wonderful little passage. NFA returns, finishes up, and then the pure heart of the Grateful Dead steps out of the mist and tears down all barriers between the music and the souls in attendance.
Caution rises and demonstrates what can be considered one of the deepest levels of this band’s musical core. Forever, the Dead were using psychedelia pinned to bluegrass as one of their most elemental launching pads into their own true nature – a place where their guiding muse could take over and freely express itself. It is this thematic undercurrent, and another which was born in Dark Star, that display the ultimate power that this band’s music had over itself, and the fans in attendance. This is yet again a pure Grateful Dead church service; though this ceremony is one of wild, primitive power. For the rest of the show there is an endless tug of war between music and the molten hot, liquid chaos of Feedback singing the song of galaxies being born out of exploding stars. Spiraling fractals come and go while the music plays down to its own base building blocks with Pigpen playing wicked harmonica and the drummers shuffling along. Primal Dead at its finest.
When Pigpen finally announces that all you need is “just a touch,” the world folds in on itself, whipping us into unfathomable wormholes, the universe birthing chaos and completely consuming the music altogether. We are spit out on the other side into an even faster dance between structure and madness until knowing one from the other is hopeless. The battle continues for what feels like centuries, with Garcia’s personal being growing to fill every open space of air in the hall. Down to a whisper, Phil flips the switch over to Lovelight, and for the next 17 odd minutes the entire evening peaks continually while the wheel continues to turn, blurring form and chaos into one.
Like a freight train, this Lovelight powers down the track. Containing Pigpen’s famous “Bear Rap” and wonderful peaks and valleys throughout, the band seems to endlessly catch themselves in whirlpools of musical riffs turning in tight circles, stitching intricate colors together into a tapestry. With a final flourish of searing flame and showering starlight it all finally ends. Utterly spent, it is hard not to come away unchanged from this quintessential Grateful Dead show from 1970.
11/06/70 etree source info
11/06/70 AUD Download